History of Women in US from 1800
- Definition of the civil rights movement - a force/movement that fought for equal rights before the law
- Strategies of the movement- campaigns, non-violent protests, civil unrest and armed rebellion
- Fronts of the civil rights movement- abolition of slavery, the rights of the minorities (particularly the African Americans), the rights to vote and women rights
- Thesis statement- despite women playing a critical role in the fight for the civil rights, they have often been overlooked
- The anti-segregation struggle
- Jim Crow system- entrenched racial segregation in public and private establishment, voter disfranchisement and racial violence against African Americas in the law
- The anti-segregation struggle in 1896-1954 (Litigation and lobbying) and shift to radical approaches in 1955
- Women who participated in the strucgle-Septima Poinsette Clark, Ella Baker, Fannie Luo Hamer, Rosa Parks and others
- Rosa Parks- arrest and Montgomery bus boycott
- Other women participated through-volunteerism, political activism, bus boycott.
- Women rights
- Discrimination against women in the early 1800s
- First and second feminism waves- comparison between the two; the women and the issues involved in the two waves
The civil rights movement was a force/movement that fought for equal rights before the law. The fight for equality was not by violence means but instead characterized by campaigns and non-violent protests. However, there were times when the fight for civil rights was accompanied by armed rebellion and civil unrest. It was a prolonged battle in most countries but eventually bore fruits. The civil rights movement fought the battle on many fronts, including the abolition of slavery, the rights of the minorities (particularly the African Americans), the rights to vote and women rights. Women played a critical role in the civil right movement and particularly in the fight for the rights to vote, women rights and the rights of African Americans. This paper argues that despite women playing a critical role in the fight for the civil rights, they have often been overlooked.
- The anti-segregation struggle
Despite the existence of racial discrimination in the US, the Jim Crow system (which degraded the rights of African Americans) literally legalized discrimination on racial basis. The system introduced in the southern states in 1890 entrenched racial segregation in public and private establishment, voter disfranchisement (denying black and women citizens rights to vote) and racial violence against African Americas in the law. Lobbying and litigation by the American civil rights movement and National Association for the Advancement colored people (NAACP) between 1896 and 1954. 1955 was an important year in the fight for civil rights movement because it saw a change of strategy from lobbying and litigation to civil disobedience, which constituted nonviolent resistance and direct action. This shift was informed by the frustration of the blacks as they felt the earlier strategies were taking long to achieve the desired desegregation of the government. The peak of civil disobedience was the 1955 bus boycott, which was sparked by the arrest of a woman who had defied segregation laws. This a clear example of the important role-played by women in civil rights movement. However, history is full of male leaders of the civil rights movement but very little is said of the women who participated in the civil rights movement.
Women particular played a crucial role in the war against the discrimination of African Americans. Women like Septima Poinsette Clark, Ella Baker, Fannie Luo Hamer and others worked tirelessly and risked their lives in the fight for the equality of all humans despite their race, religion, ethnicity or gender. African American women were vocal against the existing segregation of African American and defiantly disobeyed segregation laws. While most of the women that were involved in the fight against segregation of African Americans are not mentioned in historical literature, Rosa Parks is a popular figure in the civil rights movement. Rosa became an icon of civil rights movement in 1955 when she refused to leave her bus seat for a white man and was arrested and charged for it. The bus had a section for the white and for the “colored” and the section for the white passengers was full. The driver asked Parks to give up her seat (in the colored section) to a white man but she refused prompting her arrest by the local Montgomery police.
This arrest sparked mass protest and boycott led by women who had requested the city officials to end the segregation in the transport industry. The women organized events to facilitate alternative transport such as selling pies and cakes to raise money and car pools. Before the Parks incidence, other women like Sarah Louise Keys, Aurelia Browder, Mary Louise Smith, Claudette Colvin, Susie McDonald and Irene Morgan had resisted the bus segregation and gotten arrested for the defiance. In fact, four of the women arrested a few months leading to the arrest of Parks’ went to court and the protracted legal process ended up in the Supreme Court. However, little is written about these women in the annals of history. These are the unsung voices of the civil rights movement as they defied segregation laws where men bowed down. For instance, in the incidence involving Parks, four African Americans had been ordered by the driver to vacate their seats for white and while three African Americans (including the man seated next to Parks) gave up their seats Parks refused to vacate her seat. Even after the driver insisted that Parks surrenders her seat she held her ground and the driver called the police to arrest Parks. This led to a boycott by thousands of African American workers, who constituted three quarter of the bus’ clients, for 385 days. The boycott only ended when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the 4 African American women mentioned above.
Before the Parks incidence, the African American community in Montgomery had complained about the unfair treatment in the buses, where they were required to surrender their seats to white passengers. Suffice to say that this was not only unfair but also illegal because the law did not require any one to give up a seat for another passenger when the bus was full. However, with time drivers adopted the custom of requiring the “negroes” to give up their seats for white clients when all the white-only seats were occupied. Sometimes the “negroes” would be forced to give up their seats and leave the bus if there was no room to stand up (despite paying the bus fee).
Despite the African Americans, complaining about this treatment change was brought about by the action of Parks and other women that resulted in a boycott that economically devastated the bus company. The bus boycott is often attributed to male leaders of the civil right movement such as Edgar Nixon and Martin Luther and very little is mentioned about the thousands of women that walked to work, the women that organized car pools and events to raise money for alternative transport and the women’s political council that supported the boycott. In fact, women were in the forefront of the campaign for desegregation and the boycott and well-known men came surround as the efforts the women showed signs of fruition. In addition, other women volunteered to cook and prepare for rallies and cleared up the venues for rallies after and before the rallies. Of interest is the fact is that even after the commencement of the bus boycott the renowned male leaders did not allow Rosa Parks to address the first mass gathering, despite her request to speak.
Jo Ann Robinson, one of the leaders of the women’s political council printed the bills all night and actually advised Nixon on the need to take advantage of Parks arrest to stage the boycott. As such, through the arrest and prolonged legal battle, Parks and other women played a crucial role in raising global awareness on the civil rights struggle and the predicament of the African Americans. There are also Parks also became a popular speaker on civil rights matters, which was important as she educated many on how they could play part in the fight for civil liberty. Other women like Septima Poinsette Clark, Ella Baker, Vivian Malone Jones, Fannie Lou Hamer and others played a significant role in the fight for racial equality. They all defied the segregation of black Americans and faced harsh consequences.
- Women rights
Another major arm of the civil rights is the women rights movement that fought and continues to fight for equality of political, economic and social rights for women. Women had been denied these rights for decades and the civil rights movement has fought for the same for about two centuries. In the early and mid-1800 and women were treated differently from men on many fronts. For instance, women could not vote, vie for elective position, had no property rights, could not get be admitted into schools, could practice enter some careers such as law or medicine, they could not participate in church affairs and thus women were denied great opportunities. The place of a woman in the early 1800s was at home taking care of the family. Unfortunately, women lacked the resources and education to fight against this situation and thus accepted it.
However, in the late 1800s and 1900s there were organized attempts, led by women, to get more rights. These efforts were carried out in two waves distinguished by the time and the issues. The first wave began in mid 1800s and focused on suffrage (rights to vote) and the second wave occurred in the 1900s with the main issues being property rights, rights to equal education, reproductive rights and economic rights (including employment in all sectors of the economy). While the first round ended in 1920 with the passage of the 19th amendment of the U.S. constitution that gave women the rights to vote. In addition the 19th amendment also introduced reforms in the healthcare, workplace and careers and high education. In the second wave, women were inspired by the anti-segregation campaigns of 1950s and 1960s to fight for gender equality. The second wave focused mainly on reproductive health issues such as birth control and abortion. It is important to state that struggle for women rights was led by women, who understood the inequalities affecting them.
In the U.S the leaders of the first wave of feminism included Maltida Joslyn, Elizabeth Stanton, Alice Paul, Susan Athony, Ida Wells, Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Victoria Woodhull, Lucy Burns, Margaret Sanger and Lucy Stone. Some of these leaders tried to vote before the law allowed them to and they faced legal consequences. Most of these women were members of various organizations that supported human rights. Some of the organizations involved in the first wave include the National women suffrage association (NWSA), woman’s Christian temperance union and the American woman suffrage association (AWSA). AWSA was conservative, preferring giving speeches, getting signatures for petitions, political pressure and lobbying as their methods. In addition, AWSA worked often worked within the political system and men in power to fight for rights to vote. NWSA on the other hand was radical and aggressive in its fight for broader aspects of women rights other than just suffrage.
The second wave began in the 1940s after the Second World War and continued to the 1980s. This wave of feminism was characterized by lobbying and legal battles with the media playing a major role. The main issues in the second waver included reproductive rights, equality at work place and family issues. Other areas of interest in this wave were issues of violence against women, marital rape and divorce laws. Some of the leaders of the second wave of feminism included Betty Friedan, Alice Rossi, Mary King, Casey Hayden, Aileen Hernanderz, Valerie Solanas, Pam Allen, Anne Koedt, Coretta Scott King, Robin Morgan and Mary Daly. It is vital to mention that most of the leaders of the second wave were successful in their profession and were either published authors or journalists on feminism issues.
In conclusion, since the early 1800 women played a crucial role in the civil rights movement yet few women appear in the history of civil rights movement compared to men. Women risked their lives in civil disobedience while others volunteered to cook and clean up during rallies. The two major arms of the civil rights movement that women played major roles are in the anti-segregation and women rights struggles.
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